@Az, the fluid 'Torque convertor' actually gives a superior;y smooth ride to a normal clutch powered car.
Mine has only given the thud on a few occassions - Might just be the teeth not synchronising properly.
Autos generally give less hassle than manuals - They know what they are doing and rarely managed to grind teeth unlike a manual box.
To be honest, while I do like to practice driving a manual at work, I think I'd prefer to stay with an auto as a personal car. It's one less thing to concentrate on when you are on the road.
It's a nice theory, but I've been in some very 'hoppity' autos, even new, well maintained ones which were just badly regulated and like jumping up and down gears a lot. If somebody's driving isn't smooth on a manual, it's entirely driver fault! I think what your saying is that an auto should be smnooth no matter how carelessly it's driven.
Personally, I can't stand the bloody things and I've hated every auto car I've driven (all 3 that is!)
Plus, regardless of any claimed smoothness advantage, the fact remains that having anything that's not rigid in the driveline will introduce tremendous inefficiency and that's why most modern autoboxes have a lock-up in top gear, although that doesn't help much with fuel consumption except on the motorway.
Also, I can't really see any way an auto could be more reliable than a manual. There's just so much more to go wrong in an auto. Barring Renaults, modern manuals last practically forever when not driven by idiots who force synchro or crash the gears, and clutch wear is quite predictable.
Still, it's all subjective. That's why some cars are manual and others autos! Beside, I like changing gear - it's an involving part of the driving process...